How much could college athletes who monetize their NIL stand to earn? Case Study: Arizona Division I Athletes

Kristen Klepac

20 Sep 2021 · 3 min read


The following is a guest post from Kristen Klepac, a Content Marketing Specialist with Green Flag Digital.

In the United States, college sports are a big deal. The industry generates billions in revenue through ticket sales, merchandise, and television deals, and more. As of July 1, 2021, the NCAA finally announced they are opening the opportunity to tap into this revenue to the stars of the show. Now, student-athletes can monetize their NIL in order to carve out their own earnings.

Current college students are primarily of the Gen Z generation, a digital-savvy group that hardly understands a world where social media didn’t exist. So, one of the most natural ways to monetize an NIL for today’s student-athletes is to work as an influencer or utilize social accounts to generate a following. The real question is, how will this translate into real earnings for those who’d like to tap into this revenue stream?

Whether students partner with big brands (like Dr. Pepper) or become micro-influencers, the potential to earn is real. It can be difficult to estimate exactly how much money will actually end up in the hands of the student-athlete. One way to predicting which student-athletes may stand to gain the most may start with a simple look at their existing social accounts.

Taking this method, the team at BetArizona has put together a comprehensive case study to uncover which of Arizona’s Division 1 athletes may benefit the most from monetizing their NIL. First, they added up Twitter, Instagram, and TikTok followings of every player across a total of 23 sports for the four Arizona Division 1 schools. To estimate earning potential, a formula of $0.80 per follower per year was used to predict potential revenue.

Which Arizona Universities and Sports Offer the Best Earning Opportunity for Student-Athletes?

According to the study from BetArizona, Men’s Basketball offers by far the optimal earning opportunity. Whereas student-athletes attending Arizona State University in Tempe have higher average earnings per player than any of the other Division 1 schools.

Women sports on the other hand offer more fair and consistent earning opportunities across the board. In fact, the study makes a special effort to emphasize that even though women often receive less coverage on traditional media, socials tell a different story.

On average, women have 30% fewer social media followers than men. However, a large part of men’s followers are dedicated to basketball and there are more men athletes than women.

On the other hand, women’s followings are more evenly distributed. Plus, if you look closely at a subsection such as softball/baseball, the Arizona women’s softball teams average nearly 6,000 followers per player while men’s baseball players have an average of only 2,200 followers.

Top 25 Potential Earners in Arizona College Athletics

It may come as no surprise to see men’s basketball players land in the top 4 spots for top potential earners. Defying this is female soccer player Nicole Soto snatching the number 5 spot.

It becomes even more interesting when you actually look at the individual profiles of these student-athletes. For example, #1 Marcus Bagley’s annual earning potential far supersedes the rest with an estimated $287,536. Influencers who are Instastars will be shocked at this: This ASU basketball star has a total of 5 posts on his Instagram account and well over 300K followers. Imagine the potential to earn if he simply started posting regularly on this account!

Dalen Terry of UA has recently announced a deal to partner with a local chicken and waffle chain in Arizona. Coming in 2nd in this ranking with an estimated annual earning potential of $82,068, it looks like Dalen is geared up to take advantage of the new NIL opportunity.

Other’s landing in the top ten include basketball stars such as Luther Muhammed (ASU), Aidan Igiehon (GCU), and Holland Woods (GCU). Football players such as Jayden Daniels (ASU), Jaden Mitchell (UA), and Johnny Wilson (ASU) show up in the bottom half of the top ten.

It’s worth noting that across the list of the top 25 the primary source of followers comes from combinations of Twitter and Instagram, but Jaden Mitchell is one of the few whose TikTok account following launches him up to the #8 spot.

Of the 5 total women in the list, 2 land in the top 10 list at number five (Nicole Soto) and six, Aari McDonald of the UA women’s basketball team.

Guest Author Kristen Klepac is a Content Marketing Specialist with Green Flag Digital; she loves brainstorming creative and data-focused content and has an affinity for uncovering the best publishers for client projects, you can see some of these projects here. She’s based in France where she’s finally getting the hang of la langue française.

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